2 Peter 1:1-15 – Growth in Faith
Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ:
To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.
12 Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you have. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, 14 knowing that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has also shown me. 15 And I will also make every effort that you may be able to recall these things at any time after my departure. (HCSB)
The use of the term “Simeon” instead of “Simon” is the first curious feature of the letter. The spelling of his name is Semitic and would be directed at a Palestinian setting. The only other place where Peter is called Simeon is in Acts 15:14, likely because of its Palestinian setting.
In calling himself a slave of Jesus, he means that he’s placed himself under the authority of Jesus and submits to His lordship. It also implies a sense of honor to be Jesus’ servant. There is some Old Testament connection with the use of the term “servant.”
- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Exodus 32:13a Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
- Moses – Deuteronomy 34:5a So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab.
- Samuel – 1 Samuel 3:9-10 He told Samuel, “Go and lie down. If He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
- David – 1 Samuel 17:32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!”
It was also used in the New Testament for Paul, James, and Jude. It denotes not only humility but also honor in serving Jesus. Additionally, not only was Peter writing as a servant, but he was also an apostle of Jesus. Such a title would denote authority within the infant Christian church.
Peter’s greeting here is similar but not an exact copy of his greeting in 1 Peter.
As we grow in our relationship with Jesus and God, our knowledge of them increases. We understand God’s unconditional acceptance through grace as we place our trust in Jesus. When this happens, a transformation begins in our hearts, which is evident in our behavior. As the transformation grows, we experience abundant grace and peace not only with God but also with others.
The first question to ask when reading this verse is, “who is Peter referring to with the term ‘divine power?’”
- Jesus is called “God” in verse 1.
- Jesus appears last in verse 2, making a reference to Jesus natural.
- Power refers to Jesus in verse 16 of this chapter.
- Due to holding the primary place in the Trinity.
- Peter would likely view the Father as the one who possesses divine power.
Therefore, it is likely that Peter is referring to Jesus, although the ambiguous nature of the passage infers that Peter is not distinguishing between God the Father and Jesus.
The main point is that Jesus has provided everything that believers need for “life and godliness.” Also, the term “us” refers to all Christians and not just apostles or Jewish Christians. Additionally, salvation is accomplished by understanding Jesus’ glory and goodness, and they trust God with their salvation.
The phrase “by these” ties in neatly with “glory and goodness” from the previous verse. As believers, we inherit the promises of God as we grow in the knowledge of Jesus and become more like Him.
The phrase “divine nature” creates a tension of already-not yet. When we become a Christian, we inherit a divine nature and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. However, we still have a sinful nature and won’t be fully perfected until we dwell in heaven.
The word “corruption” refers to sin in the world and the way it corrupts everything, especially us. We escape corruption as followers of Jesus.
The phrase “for this very reason” links verses 5-7 to verses 3-4. However, holiness doesn’t happen by chance or inaction. Instead, it requires effort on our part to pursue holiness. The virtues presented, starting here and ending in verse 7, should not be viewed as a template to follow in order. However, we should take note of the first and last virtues in the list.
- Faith – the root of all virtues.
- Love – the goal and climax of the Christian life.
Trusting God is the foundation on which all other virtues build.
- Knowledge – Rooted in God’s grace. True knowledge discerns the difference between truth and lies, right versus wrong.
- Self-control – One of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:23 and a requirement for knowledge. It is the inner strength to control our sinful desires and cravings.
- Endurance – The characteristic of endurance for a believer is found in numerous Scripture passages and is particularly important to the recipients of Peter’s letter. Courage to deal with difficult periods in our lives.
- Godliness – Living a life of obedience to God’s commands. It is understood as reverence and obedience.
- Brotherly affection – The love bond between fellow believers and the family-like care and devotion that should set apart the Christian community.
- Love – A spirit of love is the ultimate expression and proof that a person is a Christian. To share in each other’s burdens. Those who have love possess all the other virtues.
The phrase “these qualities” points back to the list contained in verses 5-7. There are three main points Peter is making.
- The list of virtues needs to be apparent in the lives of believers.
- There must be spiritual growth (increasing) through the process of sanctification.
- Unbelievers and false Christians will lack virtues listed in the preceding verses.
Some translations use the term “nearsighted,” but a better translation is the one in the HCSB, shortsighted. Peter is saying that those who do not possess the virtues listed above have become blind to the saving grace and forgiveness of sins that they once embraced. They are not living as forgiven sinners but as unconverted people. Believers who live immoral lives signify that forgiveness of sins is not valued, while those who treasure being forgiven live in a way that pleases God. They are in a state of spiritual illness.
“Therefore” connects this verse to the previous one. Peter is exhorting the reader to hold fast to their faith through concentrated effort and not by being lax. We must be careful to understand that Peter is not endorsing work’s based salvation but evidence of salvation because of behavior and virtues that the believer displays. When a believer has an active faith that pursues God, they will not stumble. The correct understanding of “stumble” is not that we won’t sin but that we will not forsake God or commit apostasy. Believers who possess the virtues described in verses 5-7 are daily growing their relationship with God. Additionally, God has no doubt about our eternal state. Instead, the believer may have doubts about their eternal destiny, causing them to stumble.
Peter now turns to the eschatological kingdom, the one that believers will enter on the Day of the Lord and the one that the lost will never see. Peter is once again inferring that entrance into heaven is based upon salvation with works, much like James talks about. Salvation without works is either a bare existence salvation or a false salvation. For those who do enter heaven, the reward we will receive goes beyond anything that we deserve.
This is a simple verse but a stark reminder of how weak our faith and commitment can be. For those who have experienced the saving grace of Jesus, that should be something we never forget. However, how many of us do fall away or go through periods of intentional disobedience? How many times have we read of some ministry leader who has wandered from the path and fallen into sin? Think about the Exodus generation. They witnessed miracles first-hand yet were openly disobedient. We fool ourselves if we think that could never happen to us. Therefore, we need pastors, elders, deacons, family, and spiritual friends to constantly remind us and encourage us to stay on the narrow path. We need to do the same to those around us. It is easy to get complacent in our faith. Peter is calling for us to be focused and intentional to prevent this complacency.
Peter is using an illustration, bodily tent, to denote his physical body. As long as he was still alive, he felt called to be a constant encouragement to those around him. He would rouse those who had fallen into a spiritual stupor to wake up and press into God.
Peter understands that this life is short, even if we live to 80 years. At some point, our “bodily tent” will give way, and we will pass into eternity through one of two doors. None of us know when that will happen to us; some may die young, and some may live a long time. Our next breath is never guaranteed. Additionally, in the context of this letter, Peter may have begun to observe the persecution that would soon fall upon the church from the Roman government, and he knew that danger was swiftly approaching.
Here Peter is basically restating what is contained in verse 12, that he will never cease to look after fellow Christians and steer them back onto the narrow path. There is also an inference that his writing will be a guide even after he has been killed.
- We must ask the question, “Are we truly a Christian?” If the answer is yes, we all have the Holy Spirit living within us to empower and equip us to live a victorious life. If the answer is no, I pray that the truth of the Gospel will be revealed to you, and you will surrender your life to Christ.
- Our spiritual state will only grow if we are intentional to cultivate it through: Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship, and service. Just as the athletes we watch or the musicians we listen to, their ability was cultivated through countless hours, weeks, or years of dedicated practice. The Christian life requires the same, or even more, dedication.
- We must take responsibility to pursue godliness. However, it isn’t done in our power but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Take an inventory of how well you display the virtues in verses 5-7. Then ask your spouse, children, close Christian friends, or co-workers how they would rate you. Then take that feedback and address the areas where you are lacking.